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The Liquor Store Reviewed

David Blake gets very, very looked after

Written by . Published on October 1st 2013.


The Liquor Store Reviewed
 

THE Liquor Store is a lesson in customer service.

Not that I have much of a problem with our modern day levels of service.

The décor annoyed me. Not because it’s offensive, quite the opposite, because I liked it so bloody much.

I don’t find many sales assistants or servers to be particularly offish. The last time I went through the airport even the security folk were relatively cheery. A bloody miracle considering 75 per cent of the UK’s consumption of Prozac is attributed to airport workers.

Yet I often hear folk complaining about levels of customer service ‘these days’. Perhaps it’s a generational thing.

There’s certainly a north south divide. I like to judge general levels of customer service geographically by the cheeriness of Greggs employees. It’s the most credible and consistent of scales. Newcastle wins, MOTO Cherwell Valley loses.

Many would say customer service is a dying art, thrown to the wind once robots started answering the phones at British Gas.

Well, not at The Liquor Store.

Biggsy: the most helpful man in ManchesterBiggsy: the most helpful man in Manchester

Tip top service is of primary concern here. It’s tailored, personal and just so very, very good to see.

The guys here, Carlo and Biggsy (who sound a little like Mafia hitmen but look nothing of the sort) could not do enough for us. They'd have probably carried us home if we'd ask, like a scene from An Office and a Gentleman, they’d be Richard Gere, we’d be Debra Winger.

It began as we took our first pint out on to the sub-street level terrace on Parsonage, a drinking terrace which lays claim to the wonkiest patio furniture in all of Manchester. Put a pint on the table and it starts swaying like it’s on Soul Train.

Earwigging the neighbouring table, we witnessed Biggsy not only order a taxi for his customers, but run down the street after it.

Liquor StoreLiquor Store

A little later on we ordered parma ham with the deli board:

“Sorry we’re out of parma ham”, came the response, “but I’ll nip out and get you some.”

“No you needn’t do that, we'll have salami,” I replied.

Ten minutes later we had parma ham.

"Don't worry about it” said Biggsy, “I was going to buy some fags for those guys at the bar anyway.”

A bartender that goes out to buy patrons ham, cigarettes and chases taxis down the street for you. He also gave us free shots.

Consider us impressed.

Granted, it was a quiet Tuesday night, bettered only by Monday in the night-to-not-go-out-drinking stakes, so you may not get the same level of service at the weekend. But you do get the impression they’d try their darndest.

Having opened back in November 2012 to a fanfare of approval, The Liquor Store is still surprisingly unheard of in some quarters with many self-proclaimed city centrites still unaware of its existence.

It does have a rather inconspicuous frontage, peeking nervously over the top of a humble little shubbery and wedged beneath an ugly mocha-brown office building just off Blackfriars Street at the top end of Deansgate.

InteriorInterior

The décor annoyed me. Not because it’s offensive, quite the opposite, because I liked it so bloody much.

I'm currently searching for a new flat and irritatingly, none look like this.

The exposed brickwork (although a veneer it was passable), the glossy dark leather, moody low lighting, rich dark wood, low ceilings, lyrics emblazoned across the walls in stylised graffiti, mounted deer skulls (which we’re informed the owner Doug shot himself), various multi-coloured boozy bottles and a wealth of Mancunian cultural icons on the walls: Tony Wilson, The Gallaghers, Pankhurst and The Bee Gees (raised in Chorlton apparently).

Having previously popped into the Liquor Store for a drink, I’d thought they were trying too hard to force their Mancunianism.

Menus designed to look like Stone Roses album covers, Oasis on loop and maybe one too many Mancs staring down from the walls. There’s nothing more frustrating than Manchester trying to be too Manchester. Particularly in terms of our musical heritage. We’re not Liverpool.

But it seems to have been toned down a notch, either that or I was in a better mood.

Some MancsSome Mancs

More Mancs, and deer skullsMore Mancs, and deer skulls

Sunday to Thursday 5pm till 8pm is The Liquor Store’s 555 club: any cocktail, two glasses of wine, two pints of Budweiser or two Jagerbombs for £5. A city centre pint for £2.50? Slap my knee.

More than half of the cocktails are internal creations, a fair few harbouring that distinct Manc moniker: the Salford Cidekick, The Stone Rose, Blue Monday, Simply Red Ginger Fizz and oddly, the Tina Turner Died (all £8) – she’s still with us by the way.

We opted for the Simply Red Ginger Fizz, a gin and ginger number which turned out to be refreshing enough but just that little bit too limp (unlike Mick). The Last Word cocktail carried much more punch, with that elixir of the Carthusian monks Chartreuse adding that distinctive sweet, citrusy and spicy taste. The preparation was meticulous; no slap-bang-gimme-your-money cocktails here, each is forged at the bar as though they were handling francium - but you'd expect that for £8.

Bud, Last Word, Simply Red Ginger FizzBud, Last Word, Simply Red Ginger Fizz

There’s also a decent enough wine list, with all bottles supplied by independent award-winning city centre wine merchants Hanging Ditch (by the Cathedral). You can be fairly confident there’ll be no pish here. Bottles range from the £16-£25 mark, while the bubbly stuff ranges from £45-£250.

The choice of food is simple and limited, with only deli boards (from £6/£5 during 555), nachos (from £5.95/£5 during 555), hummus and pittas (£4) and a few bar snacks consisting of olives (£3.50), bread and oils (£3.50), Kettle crisps (£1.50) and nuts (from £1.95).

Because the choice was so limited, we ordered nearly all of it. The nachos, topped with mozzarella, cheddar and monterey jack cheese, guacamole, salsa and sour cream were plentiful and tasty enough. But then there’s only so much you can do with nachos. Nachos are nachos.

The hummus served with carrot sticks and celery was much the same, although the guys would do well to drop the celery for cucumber. I’m fairly certain that nobody actually likes celery. It’s the food equivalent of Sally Bercow - entirely pointless.

Hummus with cruditesHummus with crudites

Nachos and Biggsy's fave hot sauceNachos and Biggsy's fave hot sauce

Deli boardDeli board

The deli board was delicious, served with bread, olives, pickles, chutney, oil and balsamic. We opted for chorizo, pastrami and parma ham accompanied by Monterey Jack, Swiss and blue cheese. It was all the more satisfying because Biggsy had hotfooted down the road to pick up the parma ham. I’m also fairly sure he dived into the back to knock up the bar snacks himself. Chef he may not be, but tireless he certainly is.

Anyone looking for hearty pub grub may be disappointed, but then The Liquor Store is no restaurant and it’s not claiming to be. It’s a city centre cocktail bar, and a fantastic one at that. It knows what it’s good at and it does it very well.

Scrupulously concocted cocktails, straightforward bar snacks, sleek design and customer service so restlessly impressive that these folks don’t just bend over backwards to get you what you need, their spinal cords are at a constant 90° angle.

Follow David Blake on Twitter @david8blake

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.  

Maybrook House, 40 Blackfriars Street, City, M3 2EG. 0161 834 6239.

The Liquor Store is open Sun-Thur 4pm till 3am and Fri-Sat 12pm till 3am.

Rating: 17/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 3/5

Drink: 4/5

Service: 5/5 

Ambience: 5/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

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16 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 1st 2013.

Totally agree, great place, great music, great staff

Jonathan MoranOctober 1st 2013.

Been meaning to pop in, will do after this review

AnonymousOctober 1st 2013.

Couldn't agree more. Top guys in there. V friendly for citycentre bar. Good review

Ben EgertonOctober 1st 2013.

Absolutely spot on! We run the venue next door and the Liquor Store is now truly on the map. It's where we spend our free time and always get looked after, you can't put a price on the service or the staff. Absolutely top notch!

AnonymousOctober 1st 2013.

It's so average though.

AnonymousOctober 1st 2013.

Yes, celery sucks, cucumber would be much better :)

1 Response: Reply To This...
Stephen LakeOctober 1st 2013.

Err no cucumber is the decvils work. It contains phenylghiocarbamide which you can either taste or not. If you can (like me) it tastes of perfume. Wretched!...this place looks nice.

AnonymousOctober 1st 2013.

Great place BUT around the corner from the dirtiest, shittiest bus stop in all of Central Manchester...That being said need more places like this in town....

DaveOctober 1st 2013.

Nice one Doug and the team. Great review and well deserved. Wishing you continued success mate.

ZbibizOctober 1st 2013.

So pleased this has got a great write up! Really lovely place, hidden away and a lovely little warm up where you end up just staying. Well done Doug, proper awesome place and can definitely vouch that the deer were definitely shot by the big man himself!

SteamyOctober 1st 2013.

Yeah I like it in here. Good vibe. Only complaint would be that pints of Brooklyn should not be £5 or over, no need.

CherryOctober 2nd 2013.

Good place but just a bit too 'Manchester' themed. We love our city but let's not get sentimental

AnonymousOctober 3rd 2013.

jesus

1 Response: Reply To This...
CherryOctober 3rd 2013.

This is my favourite rant of the week, seemingly attached to nothing and just floating about in the ether, a blasphemy

John ShinnickOctober 5th 2013.

They even called me an ambulance one night.... no, really an ambulance.... truly a great Manc watering hole

AnonymousOctober 7th 2013.

The Bee Gees raised in Chorlton 'apparently'? What do you mean, 'apparently'? Aren't ManCon reviewers supposed to know titbits like this, which let's face it, are pretty common knowledge? And 2 pints of Budweiser for £5, and you think that's doing the customer a FAVOUR? It's Budweiser, FFS! Whether you like this bar or not, this is a poor review.

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